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Aug 29, 2009 at 12:34am IST

Masand Verdict: Taking of Pelham 123 engaging

Cast: John Travolta, Denzel Washington

Director: Tony Scott

Judged purely on its own merit, and independent of comparisons to the 1974 original starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, Tony Scott's remake of The Taking of Pelham 123 is a pretty engaging thriller.

John Travolta stars as a suitably over-the-top criminal mastermind, who hijacks a New York subway train full of passengers, and demands a 10 million dollar ransom. Threatening to bump off passengers one by one if the money doesn't get to him in an hour, he finds himself forming a strange bond with his negotiator, the subway employee at the other end of the intercom, played by Denzel Washington.

The film works despite its many imperfections because it's got a breathless energy to it, and an edge-of-the-seat quality that keeps you hooked. Much of what's happening over-ground is shot in a grainy, handheld style to give it a sense of immediacy, and some cool thrills are provided by those scenes in which a police car accompanied by a cavalcade of motorbikes crashes and bangs its way through Manhattan peak hour traffic to deliver the ransom money before the deadline.

Travolta and Washington offer solid enough performances, and they're joined by John Turturro and James Gandolfini who co-star as an NYPD hostage negotiator and the Mayor of New York respectively.

The film is far from flawless. Technological marvels like a hostage communicating with his girlfriend on his laptop via the Internet from the underground is something that can happen only in the movies. Not to mention how implausible that particular scenario is.

It's a gripping film nevertheless because of its frenetic pace, and for that I'm going with three out of five for director Tony Scott's The Taking of Pelham 123. The original film may be an ace battle of wits. This one is a very watchable blow-em-up pic. Take lots of popcorn with you.

Rating: 3 / 5 (Good)

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